Policy Update Feb 6, 2019

Position on S. 47, Natural Resources Management Act

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the Senate ahead of anticipated floor votes on February 6, 2019.

S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act includes dozens of bipartisan bills that would expand protections for our national parks and allow for the meaningful change of some park designations. The bill would also bring two new sites into the National Park System, telling new American stories. Finally, the bill would instruct the Department of the Interior to study new possible system sites which could further expand the system.

Recognizing their impacts to parks and public lands, NPCA urges members to vote yes on the base bill, S.47 when it comes to the floor, given the inclusion of the following Titles and Sections in the bill:

Title I – Public Lands and Forests; Subtitle C – Wilderness Designations and Withdrawals; Part I – General Provisions

Sec. 1203: Methow Valley, Washington, Federal Land withdrawal

NPCA supports this section to withdraw lands in the Upper Methow Valley in the North Cascades from mineral entry and exploration. This wild and beautiful region, a component of the ecosystem surrounding North Cascades National Park, is rare and special for its recreational, scenic and wildlife values, and should be protected for generations to come. Mineral exploration and potential subsequent mining would bring noise, air pollution, water degradation and disruption to this natural setting which is enjoyed by visitors and residents and is critical to the survival of protected wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves and wolverines. These threatened features are drivers of an economic engine for local tourism and recreation businesses, estimated at $150 million annually for Okanogan County.

Sec. 1204: Emigrant Crevice withdrawal

NPCA supports this section to permanently withdraw federal mineral rights on approximately 30,000 acres of National Forest System lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. This landscape, including the nation’s first National Park, has been historically threatened by two proposed industrial-scale gold mines.

Though under a temporary administrative withdrawal, these industrial-scale operations, one potentially within view of the Roosevelt Arch that marks the northern entrance to Yellowstone, could have disastrous consequences on the environment, the local businesses that depend on the area’s thriving tourist economy, and the park experience that draws millions of visitors from across the globe. These visitors come for the abundant wildlife, world class fishing, recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas. These public lands also play a vital role in the health of the wildlife and waters of our nation’s first National Park and of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The proximity of the proposed mines to the park would impair the park’s air quality, night skies, and globally-unique geothermal resources, as well as the iconic grizzly bear and a long list of other valued wildlife. Additionally, the proposed mines could have disastrous water quality impacts on the Yellowstone River which serves as the lifeblood of central and southeast Montana before feeding into the Missouri River. Permanent protection through Sec. 1204 is necessary for the health of this region.

Part II – Emery County Public Land Management

This section has been much improved from its original form, and now promises meaningful and significant protections for iconic landscapes in Southeast Utah, such as Labyrinth Canyon, Desolation Canyon, Muddy Creek and the San Rafael Swell. This region is peppered with national park units, many of which neighbor the lands detailed in the Emery County section of S.47. When a land exchange with the State of Utah is complete, the bill will designate approximately 750,000 acres of wilderness. Another 300,000 will be designated as a Recreation Area and withdrawn from leasing, mineral entry and new road construction. Approximately 60 miles of the Green River designated as Wild and Scenic through Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons, and approximately 75,000 acres of scattered state parcels would be traded out of the wilderness under the bill. NPCA supports the current version of the bill in Part II to protect Emery County public lands.

Subtitle D – Wild and Scenic Rivers

Sec. 1301: Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook wild and scenic river

NPCA supports this section to designate certain segments of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These areas are unique recreational and natural resources in an increasingly urbanized area of Connecticut.

Subtitle E – California Desert Protection and Recreation

NPCA supports this section that proposes a thoughtful balance of responsible land-use management and opportunities for recreation and conservation in the California desert. The California desert is world renowned for its vast and scenic landscapes. It is home to five of the nation’s most iconic national park sites (Castle Mountains, Death Valley, Manzanar, Mojave, and Joshua Tree); four remarkable national monuments, and many famous Bureau of Land Management Wilderness areas; it frames the sheer vertical prominence of the Eastern Sierra; and is home to a spectacular diversity of natural and geologic features.

The California desert has long drawn residents from urban areas, and increasingly, visitors from around the world come to enjoy the desert’s open spaces, welcoming communities, and spectacular natural resources. Joshua Tree National Park alone recorded over 2.8 million visitors in 2017, up from 2 million in 2015, making these public lands a significant economic engine for desert counties. In fact, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Mojave combined to contribute 285 million dollars to California desert economies and communities. This section will enhance and support continued robust economic development of important desert counties.

Title II – National Parks; Subtitle A – Special Resources Studies

Sec. 2001: Special resources study of James K. Polk presidential home

NPCA supports this section to study the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The home is the only surviving residence of President Polk (besides the White House) and houses original possessions of the President and Mrs. Polk.

Sec. 2002: Special resource study of Thurgood Marshall school

NPCA supports this section to study P.S. 103 and the surrounding neighborhood of West Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended the public school as a youth and lived in the neighborhood throughout his childhood.

Sec. 2003: Special resource study of President Street Station

NPCA supports this section to study the President Street Station in Baltimore, Maryland in order to determine significance, suitability and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The former train station was an important rail transportation link during the Civil War and is the oldest surviving big-city railroad terminal in the United States.

Sec. 2004: Amache special resource study

NPCA supports this section to take the initial steps needed to preserve and protect Amache internment camp site in Granada, Colorado. This bill will provide the formal process and social science to elevate, preserve and restore Amache to its due place in American history.

NPCA firmly believes the importance and central role of the National Park Service in telling our collective history. That collective history cannot be fully told until we learn and pay respect to those who continue to suffer because of their unjust incarceration at Amache. We are appreciative that the study will consider the preservation of and the sensitivities associated with the loss of life, suffering, and the stripping of unalienable rights of more than seven thousand United States citizens. Amache, and former internment camp sites throughout the west, have been physically eroded by time but still stand today as a mirror to our country that reflects on issues of racism and fear that are as relevant today as they were nearly 75 years ago. The lack of adequate protection and funding of the Amache site to date serves as a shameful mark on our history, underscoring the lessons we as a nation, have not yet learned. Our nation owes all that suffered within the confines of Amache the due recognition of their struggle. Studying the Amache site allows for the opportunity to teach current and future generations of the mistakes that allowed for Executive Order 9066 to suspend the foundational American law that all men are created equal, and that allowed for systemic racism and fear to overrule our core beliefs and Constitution.

Sec. 2005: Special resource study of George W. Bush Childhood Home

NPCA supports this section to conduct a special resource study. This is the first step for the Department of the Interior to determine the feasibility and suitability of the George W. Bush Childhood Home as the best site to commemorate the legacy of an historic American family with two presidents, two governors and two first ladies.

Subtitle B – National Park System Boundary Adjustments and Related Matters

Sec. 2101: Shiloh National Military Park boundary adjustment

NPCA supports the adjustment of the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park to protect the Fallen Timbers, Russell House and Davis Bridge battlefields, and the establishment of the Parker’s Crossroads battlefield as an affiliated area of the National Park System.

Sec. 2102: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park boundary

NPCA supports this section to adjust the park boundary from approximately 700 acres to around 2,000 acres, change the name to ‘Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park,’ authorize a resource study to determine if the park should be further enlarged to consolidate existing public lands, protect hunting and fishing, and provide additional opportunities for education, recreation and public enjoyment. The Ocmulgee National Monument was authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect a unique Native American cultural landscape known as the “Old Fields” and consisting of earth mounds and extensive prehistoric archaeology. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the Old Fields as ranking among the nation’s richest archaeological areas. Excavations in the 1930s documented human presence dating back to the last Ice Age up to 17,000 years ago. Unfortunately, when the park was created during the Great Depression, only a fraction of the Old Fields could be preserved and many significant resources were left unprotected.

This section honors the ancestral story of the Muscogee Creek and other southeastern Native people, will protect important wildlife and recreational resources, and will promote tourism and boost economic growth. The section is also supported by the Governors of Georgia and Oklahoma and the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes representing over 500,000 Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Seminole people throughout the United States.

Sec. 2103: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park boundary

NPCA supports the boundary adjustment to protect additional portions of the Kennesaw Mountain Civil War battlefield. The bill adds approximately eight acres to the park, preserving key sites from General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, including the Wallis House, one of the few original structures remaining from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and the Union signal station at Harriston Hill.

Sec. 2104: Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia

Fort Frederica National Monument preserves the remains of one of the earliest Colonial-era English settlements in Georgia, established by Governor James Oglethorpe in 1736 to defend the British colonies against Spanish invasion from Florida. This section preserves undeveloped forest land adjacent to the fort from encroaching development. The St. Simons Land Trust has already purchased part of the property north of the fort and is holding it for transfer to the park once a boundary expansion is authorized. Given the significance of the historical resources for telling the story of the events leading to our nation’s founding, NPCA is pleased to support the boundary expansion.

Sec. 2106: Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument boundary

NPCA supports this section to modify the maximum acreage available for inclusion in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Currently, the monument is surrounded by private land; there is no access to the park along the western boundary. A private landowner has offered to donate his property to the NPS to expand the park and provide access to lands on the west side. This property addition will enable NPS to more easily perform fuel mitigation activities, as needed, in order to reduce risk of catastrophic wildfires within the park, which could affect both the park and its neighbors. The addition also expands NPS management of critical wildlife migration corridors.

Sec. 2107: Voyageurs National Park boundary adjustment

NPCA supports this section to modify the boundary of Voyageurs National Park and authorize the transfer of a number of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcels within the park to the National Park Service. It also authorizes the transfer of any additional parcels that are identified by the BLM and authorizes the park to acquire State lands in or adjacent to the park by donation or exchange only. The interagency land transfer will save staff time and taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need for duplicative land management between the two federal agencies and provide consistency to the land management of the national park. According to the National Park Service, there are no anticipated costs associated with the land transfer itself.

Sec. 2108: Acadia National Park boundary

NPCA supports this section to address the boundary of Acadia National Park and provide for some additional administrative provisions. The section would codify the Schoodic Peninsula addition to the park, an area of pristine beauty and with improved public amenities to allow visitors to camp, bike and hike the Schoodic Woods while finding peace and solitude along Maine’s stunning and undeveloped coastline. NPCA also supports the permanent authorization of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission as it plays an integral role in providing local feedback to creatively problem solve and move toward successes at Acadia National Park. We also support the modification of the land use designation for the Tremont School to allow for public uses. NPCA supports language to allow the park to transfer or exchange land up to 10 acres on a case-by-case basis, including when there are land survey errors or road realignments.

However, NPCA remains slightly concerned with Section (f): Continuation of Certain Traditional Uses, as it lists specific organisms that would be allowed for harvesting, as regulated by the State of Maine. NPCA supports allowing the Park Service at Acadia to monitor and regulate harvesting practices in the inter-tidal zone surrounding the park, though only using traditional methods. Ideally, NPCA would like to ensure that the legislative intent of “traditional” does not include mechanized harvesting, but rather “non-mechanized” or “by-hand” methods.

Sec. 2110: Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site honors the life and work of our 32nd President and is one of the great historic destinations within New York State and the National Park System. NPCA strongly supports the addition of the Morgan Property adjacent to the entrance; this addition will allow it to be protected in perpetuity and enhance connections to the Vanderbilt National Historical Site to the north of the FDR National Historic Site.

Subtitle C – National Park System Redesignations

Sec. 2201: Designation of Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park

NPCA supports this section to redesignate Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park. The National Historical Park designation applies to sites that extend beyond a single historical feature or property. The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site not only encompasses the studio and estate of world-renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but also includes the Cornish Art Colony and Blow-Me-Down Farm. In the decades before World War I, these sites together comprised one of America’s most prolific and vibrant artist communities. At 370 acres, the site is larger than over a third of present-day National Historical Parks and contains three nature trails for hiking. The redesignation to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park more accurately reflects the site and the rich cultural heritage of the era.

Sec. 2205: Golden Spike National Historical Park

Recognizing NPCA strongly supports expanding the National Park System to more fully tell the story of America’s history, culture and our diverse experiences as a nation, we support the revised bill included in Sec. 2205. The Golden Spike site offers a unique narrative on the transcontinental railroad boom in the 19th Century—a significant turning point in westward expansion, the makeup of the American workforce and the reach of national media. NPCA encourages Congress to include information regarding the labor of diverse immigrants along the railroad in the bill itself and honor the roles of workers that made the track and Park Service site possible. For example, between 1865 and 1869, approximately 12,000 Chinese laborers were hired to work on the completion of the railroad accounting for 85 percent of the Central Pacific Railroad workforce.

Subtitle D – New Units of the National Park System

Sec. 2301: Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument

Medgar and Myrlie Evers were powerful voices for the civil rights movement. It was their unwavering determination that encouraged the fight for equality across the country. A veteran of United States armed forces, Medgar Evers joined the fight for equality upon returning to civilian life and served as the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. Although his voice was silenced by an assassin’s bullet in 1963, his legacy survived his death at the age of 37. NPCA supports the establishment of a national park site commemorating the lives and work of the Evers family.

Sec. 2302: Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument

The Battle of Mill Springs was the first decisive Federal victory of the Civil War and the beginning of a series of Confederate setbacks in the Western Theater. Mill Springs Battlefield, the Brown-Lanier House and the West-Metcalf house, are intact examples of a civil war battlefield and related properties that were occupied at the time of the Battle. The preserved encampment and earthworks at Beech Grove provide an insight into the Confederate Army’s winter field camp in the winter of 1861-62.

In 1991, the National Park Service put Mill Springs on the Most Endangered Battlefield List. Since 1991 the Mill Springs Battlefield Association has purchased and maintained nearly 500 acres of battlefield land. In 1993 the Mill Springs Battlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1994 Mill Springs Battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark. NPCA supports this section to create this new monument.

However, NPCA opposes language in the section regarding “buffer zones,” since it seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.

Sec. 2303: Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument

NPCA supports this section to protect the Camp Nelson area as a National Monument. Roughly 180,000 African American men fought for the Union during the American Civil War. Beginning in 1864, Camp Nelson served as one of the largest recruitment, mustering and training depots for United States Colored Troops (USCT). Locals have supported preservation of the Camp Nelson story for decades. The designation of the site as a national monument to be managed by the National Park Service ensures that the important resources and stories associated with Camp Nelson will be protected in perpetuity for the benefit, enjoyment and inspiration of the American people and international visitors alike.

However, as in Sec. 2302, NPCA opposes language in the section regarding “buffer zones,” since it seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities’ to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.

Subtitle E – National Park System Management

Sec. 2402: Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation program reauthorized

NPCA supports this section to amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to reauthorize Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from FY2018 through FY2024. HPF funds will be used to support preservation and restoration of buildings and structures at HBCU campuses across the nation.

Subtitle F – National Trails and Related Matters

Sec. 2501: North Country Scenic Trail Route adjustment

NPCA supports this bill to change a portion of the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern Minnesota to a more scenic and sustainable location. The route change would incorporate into the North Country NST the now-existing, world-class hiking trails in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and along the North Shore of Lake Superior—trails that did not exist when the NST was originally authorized in 1980. Their inclusion in the NST greatly enhances local tourism and eliminates the need to route the trail through sensitive wetlands and bogs of the original (and yet unbuilt) route, saving construction and maintenance costs. The Act would also complete the connection between the North Country NST and its sister trail, the Appalachian NST, in Vermont, as originally envisioned. The changes to the trail would not adversely affect the rights of landowners as the National Park Service only has the authority to purchase land or rights of way from willing sellers.

Title III – Conservation Reauthorization

NPCA strongly supports Title III to provide permanent reauthorization and dedicated funding for LWCF at its fully authorized amount of $900 million annually. LWCF has a demonstrated record of success over fifty years protecting our national parks and other public lands, so has demonstrated its worthiness of permanent reauthorization. The program’s funding has been insufficient and inconsistent, despite its importance in protecting our parks from incompatible commercial and residential development. More than 1.6 million nonfederal acres remain within the borders of units of the National Park System, totaling an estimated $2 billion in value. Dedicated funding for this program would ensure the consistent funding the program warrants and that when inholdings become available for purchase by willing sellers, the Park Service and other federal lands agencies have more adequate funds available to ensure their protection in perpetuity.

Title VI – National Heritage Areas

Sec. 6001: National Heritage Area Designations

NPCA has worked with local communities and the National Park Service for many years on dozens of Heritage Areas around the nation. Though we are pleased to support the designation of the following new Heritage Areas, as recommended by this section, we do, however, have grave concerns about the unintentional and adverse impacts adding new heritage areas, no matter how worthy of designation, will have on the 49 that currently exist without an increase to the program’s operating budget. Heritage areas must match federal funding dollar for dollar with non-federal support.

On average, most heritage areas deliver a four to one return on their federal investment. Increasing the program’s budget will protect stories and lifeways, generate heritage tourism, and create jobs. And it is the only way to ensure that new areas can thrive without undermining the performance of those that already exist.

Maritime Washington National Heritage Area, Washington – This section highlights the history, culture and places important to the people who have inhabited Washington State’s salt-water coastline. It will help tell their stories, including those of Native Americans as well as modern European settlement, draw tourists, and focus attention and support for protecting historic places and structures.

Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, Washington – This section links rural Washington with Seattle, while supporting local communities’ protection of historic structures and open space important for farming and recreation. It highlights the people, history, cultures and landscapes along the primary transportation artery coming from the East and which has been important to developing the nation’s gateway to the Pacific and Asia.

Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area, West Virginia and Maryland – The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area proposes to protect forest management heritage in portions of West Virginia and Maryland and develop interpretive and recreational themes to promote heritage tourism, small business development and enhanced pride of place.

Sec. 6002: Adjustment of Boundaries of Lincoln National Heritage Area

NPCA supports this section to add Livingston County, the City of Jonesboro in Union County, and the city of Freeport in Stephenson County, to the boundary of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Livingston County is the only county in the 8th Judicial Circuit (Lincoln’s law circuit) not currently within the boundary of the National Heritage Area. The cities of Jonesboro and Freeport were both sites for Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858. Their inclusion in the boundary will enable the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area and its partners to tell a more complete story about Lincoln’s time in Illinois prior to his election as president of the United States.

Sec. 6003: Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study

NPCA supports this section to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain land as the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area. The historic Finger Lakes Region of New York is a 9,000 square mile, four-season playground, set against a backdrop of Mother Nature’s best work – from waterfalls and gorges to thick, cool woods to rolling hills to miles of spectacular shoreline on 11 glacial lakes and one Great Lake. It also includes the Women’s Rights National Historical Park that tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19-20, 1848. Should the final study recommend the designation of a Finger Lakes National Heritage Area, NPCA hopes it will also recommend the best methods for ensuring the fiscal well-being of the new area and of the existing National Heritage Area program.

Title IX – Miscellaneous

Sec. 9001: Every Kid Outdoors Act

This section codifies a widely popular initiative started during the Centennial year of the National Park Service. NPCA supports this bill to incentivize young people and their families to experience and appreciate our national parks and other federal lands and waters. Sec. 9003: 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act of 2017 NPCA supports this section to amend the Public Lands Corps Act to establish the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to place young people and/or veterans in national service positions to conserve and restore our national parks and other federal lands. Section 9003 would help teach youth and veterans skills to successfully transition to the workforce while instilling the importance of our public lands.

NPCA encourages the Senate to pass S.47 without any damaging amendments that undermine national parks or the laws that protect them.